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Robb

Choosing violin fitting standout or blend in

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I see all kinds of fitting used on violins. People used both mixed or matched sets. Just wondering how you decide what to use. Do you base it on the color of the violin varnish, tradition, etc.  I'm sure it also depends on what the buyer wants it you are selling. Opinions?

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I looked at so many Hill books as a kid. I love heart shaped pegs and English (Hill) style tailpieces. Usually in Boxwood. To be honest I don’t think there is any real reason on my part. The last viola I commissioned had ebony fittings. But still the same patterns. I do hate ugly fittings ( my opinion, others like other designs) I would stay away from rosewood as the regulations will probably get more strict instead of less. The weight and density of the wood of the tailpiece can certainly make a difference in the sound and response of the instrument.

 

DLB

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I like for things to blend. I even know makers who have chosen Pernambuco fittings and shaded the varnish to match. Sometimes I change fittings for tone issues, and I will install fittings that a customer wants, but warn them that I won't be responsible if they don't like the tone.

I think that it is best if the fittings are  not noticed first thing.

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I do tend to pick fittings that I think work well with the varnish aesthetically. Mismatched sets of fittings won’t necessarily affect sound but they do stick out visually and drive one mad. 

I remember hearing a German maker say that only ebony was acceptable on commercial violins. Other more exotic woods were to be reserved for fine violins in his opinion. I see a lot of old Germans with ebony and a lot of old French with rosewood, but it doesn’t matter to me, so long as the fittings aren’t too soft and work well. 

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Do ebony, boxwood, rosewood, etc. tailpieces have certain common tonal effects on most violins, or is it like bows where one may sound good on a particular instrument, but not another? Also, how much impact does the material chosen for the tail gut have?

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Obviously there are many factors that impact choice. When I started this I was focused on aesthetics but function is also important.

 

 

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On one of my fiddles, I switched to pernambuco from ebony for reasons of tone. That made a noticeable and pleasant change tonally and fortunately worked well with the varnish.

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Answer to the original question: Neither.

I don't feel the need to stand out.  I don't feel the need to blend in.

I chose my fittings based upon my personal aesthetic taste and tone.

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It seems to depend on the overall aesthetic.

I think a matched set of fittings generally looks best, and is certainly a safe go-to. My personal preferences are rosewood, ebony, other, then boxwood.

But - I've seen some mismatched-fittings on some instruments that look awesome, yet on other instruments, well, not so nice.

One thing that puzzles me though, is how some will fuss over the aesthetics of the instrument - but then use an old facecloth in a bizarre colour as a shoulder pad...lol.

Padding can (and should) look nice too...

Society is also changing. I prefer to have a bit of formality, while the go-to seems to be extreme informality. At the end of our present day "anything goes"!

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When having to practice hours a day, chinrests of ebony, rosewood and other exotic woods, were more likely to be irritating to the skin. Once the skin develops an irritation to the wood and/or the metal clamping mechanisms, it takes a bit of time to heal. I made the mistake of using an ointment and it did make the instrument messy. Luckily, there was only a little permanent damage near the saddle. This situation is an issue of function. Fabric and pads were not visual solutions. 

Not an aesthetic issue for some as chinrests can be removed for photographs. I do enjoy the synergy of well-finished ebony on non-antiqued dark-orangish and more reddish instruments. Boxwood on lighter coloured or blondish instruments can appear... um... not so interesting. Shiny antiqued violins with pale boxwood make me sad, but will withhold all opinions until the instrument gets played.

I saw a fine Guadgnini copy, quirks and all, with what i was told were Meyer fittings awhile back and my eyes were drawn to the fittings. The player claimed the fittings solidified the "core" sound of the instrument. I am a strong believer that the fittings have an effect on the sound. Having said this, let me clarify that proper fit and installation is essential to having a solid "baseline" and starting point. Some Brazilian exotic fittings have a fresh, newer, appearance, but i do not know how they sound. Though i have not been happy with what some dealers are selling as "pernambuco" fittings. Clear, sonics, which i attribute to a good fit, but does not add much richness or depth to the instruments played. But this leads to discussions of tail loops and integrated tuners of carbon or metal in tailpieces. Which leads me to gripe about B&C not willing to replace an integrated tuner that broke - been in a drawer for ten years.

Consequently, there are many complex feelings about engineered pegs. On cellos, removing the steel fine tuners from student tailpieces allow for more interesting strings combinations. One student switched to Jargars during his Bach studies and his parents were so happy to not having to purchase tungsten lower strings. I do think that a bit more time is spent penciling and straightening bridges on kid's instruments with Knilling and Wittner pegs. There are only a few that i encounter but i thought about researching something more like a grease pencils along with an added parchment on the a-strings. Could they eventually have real wood paddles? 

Almost thirty years ago, Christophe Landon's acrylic pegs ( on his blue violin ) were exciting and did look into having some made.

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I think it all depends upon the individual instrument. I've always loved the look of an old, well-played violin with worn boxwood Hill-style fittings, but I've seen plenty of varnishes that look best with ebony.

Perhaps people could post some images of combinations that they love...

As an aside - does anyone know where to source old very old fittings? I'd love to find an appropriately old/funky boxwood tailpiece for this wonky old scottish fiddle.

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